How HEFW Improved My Financial Wellness Programming

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Much like Christopher Columbus accidentally stumbling into the United States in 1492, I found myself stumbling into an entirely new world in June 2016 at the Summit in Columbus, Ohio. Similarly to Columbus’s discovery, this is a world that had already been in existence and I was exposed to new people, ideas, and food (I had my first crepe while at this conference!).

I started my first professional position coordinating the “Making Cent$” Financial Wellness Program at SUNY Oneonta 3 weeks prior to this conference in 2016, which made this experience both nerve-racking as well as exciting. I was tasked with developing a Financial Wellness program for the SUNY system that would be scalable to other institutions and was unsure of how to start this daunting task.

Attending this conference was the most beneficial professional development experience I could have asked for. I was exposed to content other schools were covering in their programming and learned about the process they went through to get where they were. I learned tips on how to start a peer counseling program, information on different online tools, and meaningful data to support the work that I was going to be doing at SUNY Oneonta.

Another positive aspect of the conference was the people. There is an entire community willing to share stories, expertise, and insight. I had an opportunity to meet vendors and ask questions of the different resources I eventually would use as part of the Making Cent$ program. I walked away with a list of contacts from different schools to connect with for future reference. These things have all been immensely helpful to me and it made me realize that I was not necessarily “starting from scratch” when developing a Financial Wellness program.

When I took my ship car back to New York, I had a lot of information from the summit to dissect. I had confidence, ideas, data, and resources. The program at Oneonta grew dramatically that first year to the point at which I found myself as a member of the community at the 2017 HEFW Summit as a resource for other schools developing financial wellness programs!

I still refer to my notes from the 2016 and 2017 summits as I continue to develop and expand the Making Cent$ program at SUNY Oneonta. One note I consistently refer to is on different tactics to improve the user experience. This information is crucial to ensure that whatever I do is in the most effective way.  And you’re in luck because they made this session into a webinar! I highly encourage you to listen on March 20th to hear tips from the co-chair of the 2018 HEFWA himself, Phil Schuman!

If my own encouragement to listen does not convince you, consider one of the feedback comments from an attendees at last year’s session,  “This really advanced my thinking of what is possible on an institutional level!”

I look forward to finding new ways to improve the user experience on my own campus and to develop new connections at the HEFW Summit in Portland Oregon this July!

Kevin Sutton is the coordinator for SUNY Oneonta’s “Making Cent$” program. He also acts in an advisory role for programming and event coordination for SUNY Cobleskill’s financial wellness initiatives. Kevin is currently taking karate lessons and volunteers with his county’s “Big Buddy” mentorship program. He enjoys playing Pokémon with his little buddy, Danny. One day, Kevin hopes to act in an episode of ABC’s General Hospital before it goes off the air. Contact Kevin about his summit experience at Kevin.Sutton@oneonta.edu.